The GOP caucus of the legislature held a press conference to address their reasons not to support the red light camera program in Suffolk County.
HAUPPAUGE – Members of the county’s Republican caucus held a press conference on Tuesday, July 9, and called for a meeting with the agency that completed a $250,000 study, last month, on the 100 red light cameras placed throughout the county.
Minority leader Tom Cilmi (R-East Islip) and his fellow Republicans focused on a particular result that found a nearly 60 percent increase in non-fatal accidents since the program was implemented.
“If total accidents increased,” he said, “then it’s likely that there would have been fewer accidents involving fatalities at these intersections, perhaps as few as 10 or 11. Drivers are literally playing Russian roulette every day in Suffolk County with these cameras. I don’t like what-if analyses, but that’s what this whole report is, a quarter-million-dollar what-if.”
Cilmi calls the rest of the information in the report “questionable” and accused county executive Steve Bellone of using the “hypothetical data” and “twisted conclusions” to reauthorize the red light camera program for years to come. Cilmi, along with the other legislators in attendance, also called for the program to be suspended.
Legis. Robert Trotta (R-Smithtown) says he has reached out several times to L.K. McLean Associates, the Brookhaven-based civil engineering firm that conducted the study, about the results, but has not heard back.
Legis. Steve Flotteron (R-West Islip) states, “After spending a quarter of a million dollars and waiting two years, we’ve learned total crashes at red light camera locations have increased an alarming 59.6 percent. People’s lives are at risk from the failure of this program in many locations.”
Jason Elan, a spokesperson for Bellone’s administration, says it’s “unfortunate to see the Republican minority caucus devolve into conspiracy theories and misinformation at the expense of public safety.”
Elan explained that, in 2017, the county legislature directed Suffolk County DPW to engage an independent contractor to conduct a “comprehensive review” of the red light camera program, review the intersections in the program, evaluate the program’s efficiency, and guide the future conduct of the program.
Bellone’s camp acknowledges that overall crashes have increased under the program, but point out that fatal and serious crashes have decreased.
Elan says the number of total crashes at the 100 camera locations increased from 3,515 to 5,612 between the two study periods, 2007-2009 (pre-enforcement) and 2015-2017 (active enforcement). Bellone’s spokesperson cited a Pew Research Center statistic that found in 2009, less than 30 percent of people used a smartphone, as opposed to 2019 where 81 percent of people own a smartphone. The device has been cited as a cause for many accidents.
This publication reported on the county’s latest one-year extension with Conduent, Inc., the New Jersey-based tech company that oversees the red light cameras, and past results pertaining to the program in the article “Red light revenue,” published Sept. 27, 2018. Officials had confirmed that the program generates close to $20 million per year for the county. Officials more recently confirmed that the contract with the cameras’ installers is set to expire on Dec. 31, 2019.
Cilmi encourages residents who are skeptical about the red light cameras to attend and speak out during the upcoming general meeting of the Legislature on Tuesday, July 16, where the future of the red light camera law will be discussed.